Case Study – BLAST Tutorial – Johns Hopkins University

Producing Instructional How-To Videos That Teach and Demonstrate


How-To Video

Target Audience

Scientists Using BLAST Tool


440,000+ Views, 2.6k Likes

Back in 2010, I sent the link to this video to my friends to try to get some hits. I wanted to get to 100 views so it wouldn’t look like a pathetic little video. Thanks to some awesome production by Suzy Shaw, this tutorial on using BLAST now has 100,000 views [in 2024 over 440,000]. Never expected this from an educational bioinformatics video. 

Bob Lessick

Professor, JHU AAP

Project Overview

Purpose: To create a tutorial for BLAST, a cornerstone bioinformatics tool used by scientists in Johns Hopkins Advanced Academic Programs.

Videos are great for teaching how to do things, and YouTube has made it even easier to show and explain. It has been reported that viewers retain 95 percent of a video’s message, compared to 10 percent when reading the text. An effective instructional video doesn’t need fancy effects or music. It just needs to show clear steps for a project. 

In 2010, Suzy Shaw, our video expert, worked with a young professor from Johns Hopkins Advanced Academic Programs. They collaborated to create an educational video. The video demonstrates how to use a bioinformatics tool called BLAST. 

The production phase included recording a screen capture and narration of the professor demonstrating how to use BLAST. The post-production phase included editing, packaging the video with a branded introduction, and posting it to YouTube with the appropriate description. 

As of May 2024, that video has been viewed over 440,000 times and increased brand awareness for JHU AAP!

When you watch the video, you will see that it begins with goals. The video then guides you with clear narration. It also uses zooming and call-out boxes to highlight important details. In short, it’s a clean presentation. 


Target Audience — Having a clearly defined target audience before creating content is critical to the success of a project. For this project, the target audience was scientists and graduate students using a special tool called BLAST to research bioinformatics.

Production Style —This video was produced cleanly and concisely, following the instructional narration and demonstration provided by the professor. Only the professor’s voice was recorded since a video of him talking would have distracted the viewer from the demonstration on the screen. At critical moments, the video zooms in to ensure the viewer doesn’t miss the action. Occasionally, the auction is paused to reinforce critical content on the screen with a text overlay.   

Branding—This and other videos on the channel were branded with a custom open for JHU’s Advanced Academic Programs. Branding elevates the ownership of content and increases its production value. 

Uploading to YouTube — Once the video was output for YouTube, detailed steps were taken to ensure maximum visibility with the target audience.

  • Headlines and Descriptions were created using keywords that users in the scientific realm would use to increase visibility on YouTube, which is the second largest search engine.
  • Key Moment Segmentation, also known as chapters, allows users to access specific information or topics within the video. It also improves optimization and YouTube’s understanding of the information provided within the video. We implement this process in every video.
  • Transcription, aka Closed-Captioning, is also an important step in every video we produce. It is necessary for 508 compliance and allows the viewer to read the information provided,increasing their comprehension of the topic. YouTube also loves the transcription, which helps reinforce the topics’ keywords.

Posting — The final step in this video’s production would have been communicating with faculty and sharing the video on social media. Faculty added it as a resource and embedded the video on Hopkins’ Learning Management System (LMS), so grad students could easily access the information when they needed it.


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